It took two and a half hours in a car to travel from Valencia to La Guaira; it may have been longer due to the almost permanent rush hour that affects the highway. After the trip, I stayed at an apartment that belonged to people my family knew but I didn’t. I did not get much rest, though. The night before a big event is always long and full of expectation. However, I did not have to wait a lot since I found myself up at 4 a.m. going to the airport; a day filled with endless lines, terminals, and goodbye hugs was ahead of me: I was leaving my home country, Venezuela.
I was on my way to the United States with my cousin on Aug. 16, 2012 to start college. The moment I had been waiting for to start pursuing my dreams had finally arrived. However, fear made an appearance and I could not help but cry as I hugged my high school friends goodbye for the last time a day before the trip.
The same happened when I didn’t want to let go of my mother at the airport, even though I was going to see her a few months later. The uncertainty of my future hit me harder than I was expecting.
As the plane was flying away, for a brief moment I observed the Caribbean Sea and the slums of La Guaira; those small squares that people are forced to call home, yet they represent a marvelous light show during the night. At that time, I realized I did not have a way to turn back time and change my mind. I did not have another choice but to relax and take the best out of the experience. That was in fact the best option since not even imagination could have showed me everything I was about to live and learn.
It has been a year and four months since that day. A year and four months since I arrived in the United States as an international student eager to start college. This journey started at Oakland University, where I enhanced my English skills to be ready to face the challenge of pursuing a major in a second language.
After that, I moved to Grand Rapids and ended up at Grand Rapids Community College, the place where my dream of becoming a journalist officially began. The experience has been wonderful and I look forward to see what the future holds. However, nostalgia never forgets to visit me and remind me that it has also been a year and four months since the last time I set foot in Venezuela. It reminds me how moving away also meant I had to be apart from the ones I love. To this date, I still can’t believe I’ve spent all this time without seeing my father.
I don’t have the chance either to be with my older brothers or my best friends; a text message and a phone call have become the only ways I can reach them. As much as I love living in Grand Rapids, this time I have been abroad made me realize that Venezuela is part of me wherever I go. Growing up there made me who I am, and I want to go back and see it all once again.
Venezuela has more to offer than mere political turmoil, and it saddens me how those aspects can get buried under the actions caused by a situation that went out of control. However, I’ve also had the chance to hear comments from people who know some of Venezuela’s features; the Angel Falls and baseball players—especially Miguel Cabrera—are usually the most common, and there are even more natural landscapes, national talents, and traditions to talk about. Either way, it is always an honor to hear positive remarks and show people the other side of that South American country where I lived the first 18 years of my life.
Somebody once told me that even if I lived somewhere else for 20 years, I was still going to miss Venezuela; I’m starting to believe that’s true. I have not been able to go back for different reasons such as the price of tickets and academic obligations. I do not even know when I will be able to go back at this point. It could be a few months, another year or more for all I can guess. Meanwhile, I can just imagine the moment when the plane is approaching La Guaira, once again receiving me with all its countless lights.